23 May 2014

Liberia: Where Is the Budget? House Dismisses Submission Claim

Photo: James M. GarresenII/ Executive Mansion
H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf(file photo)

Monrovia — In the wake of claims by the Executive branch of government that the 2014/2015 draft national budget has been submitted to the legislature, the House of Representatives is claiming that it has not seen the document.

House Speaker Alex Tyler told members of that august body during Thursday's session that the Executive Branch of government has only submitted what he referred to as a 'symbolic draft budget' to his office and not the budget in totality.

He further claimed that documents to support the budget which include a summary of financial operations of each autonomous agency, indicating the resources to be transferred from the National budget, summary of the annual financial plan of the budget and operation of each state enterprise or Financial institution, a specific format which is prescribed in the regulation and identifying in summary of all donor financial support to the budget, are yet to be submitted.

Speaker Tyler said: "These documents have not accompanied the budget yet, so we only have symbolic copies. When that is done the budget will be placed on the agenda and subsequently turned over to the committee. In other words, there is no budget as of now."

The Speaker's comment was in response to a concern raised by Representative Edward Forh (CDC-District #16-Montserrado County) about media reports that the budget has been submitted to the Legislature.

The House Speaker in further comments mandated the House's Press Bureau to do a formal communication on the matter, but up to press time the communication was still being prepared. The Ministry of Finance on Wednesday issued a press statement indicating that it has submitted the budget to the Legislature

Stated the Ministry of Finance "President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has on Wednesday, May 21, 2014, submitted the draft national budget of US$557m to the 53rd national legislature. The new austerity budget cuts wastes in government and channels more funds to infrastructure development as set out in the Agenda for Transformation".

The Ministry of Finance further stated "Consistent with the Section 11.1 of the Public Financial Management Act of 2009, President Sirleaf, through the Ministry of Finance submitted the draft FY14/15 budget, which is the last cycle of spending under austere conditions in the three years Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) introduced in 2012. The budget focuses on investing in key areas including energy, roads, ports, security, technology, health, education, etc., that have the potential for massive social and economic returns to transform the Liberian economy".

"This draft Budget calls for a period of national sacrifice - a sacrifice that calls for better efficiency in the allocation of available resources - as government combines aggressive revenue generations with careful debt management and scaled up spending on security, energy and the road network," said President Ellen Johnson in her budget statement issued Wednesday.

According to the Ministry, the President says the new draft budget also focuses on programs and projects as the regular costs of running ministries and agencies have been cut drastically and savings moved into key public investment programs that will benefit the Liberian people. The draft budget was developed over several months of consultations and hearings with all spending entities.

It is not clear who is telling the truth, whether the legislature or the Ministry of Finance.

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